WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade game is the final wrestling game to grace the SNES at least with the WWF license. It took a completely different path than the previous three WWF games available for the system. This wrestling game offers arcade fighting action in and out of the ring. Arcade meaning that you press forward, forward punch to perform a move or even quarter circle forward and strong punch. You’ve got strong and weak punches and kicks. Double tap one direction starts your wrestler running. It all feels so much smoother than the stiffness of the previous three games There’s a block button that protects you against strikes, but not against grapples. These grapples let you do some big moves like tombstones, rack back breakers and so on, but its all direction and button presses. Gone is the button mashing. Its more about skill, timing and your knowledge of button combos.
There are only six true to life superstars, Bret Hart, the Undertaker, HBK, Razor Ramon, Doink the Clown, and Lex Luger, so you may get bored with frequent matches. They look a lot more realistic than the previous three WWF games for the Super Nintendo. With the limited roster comes some incredible animations. The wrestlers strikes, punches, kicks and headbutts all feel like they’d really do them. The Undertaker has a huge clubbing punch, Bret Hart will use an upper cut and overhand punches. Lex Lugar will use a double axe handle smash.
Each wrestler feels different to play. They have their own size, speed and maneuvers, but it does get goofy with some moves. Hearts will fall out of Shawn Michaels. Bret Hart will do a somersault into his uppercut, Lex Luger’s arm turns into a mace, Undertaker will hit people with tombstones and throw ghostly dragons. So this really takes a step away from reality and I don’t mind it. Its all part of the arcade feel and visual appeal. With the last three games being so rooted in reality, this was a nice break.
Lex Luger really stands out from the pack, since he can military press opponents. Doing these standard moves and special maneuvers, you’ll build up a combo meter. These combos are pretty easy and amount to a direction and a button press, usually in fours. Four heavy strikes, four razor’s edges, four choke slams and so on. You can keep stringing moves together to make some pretty long combos and while they don’t feel very wrestling, even it feels good to pull them off. Experimenting will find out the best combos. Having to build your combo meter feels like a good trade off, because players would just be comboing one another and no one would have a chance. There are even reversals to combos and maneuvers. They feel pretty easy to figure out and logical even without a cheat sheet.
Since this is an arcade style game, the point is just to beat up your opponents all within 90 seconds. That’s right there’s a brief time limit, but each fall plays out so quick. The loser is the one with no energy left and the winner will automatically pin them and then pose afterward. Its simple, easy fun. If you take too long to pin them, there are ways you can kick out, but its pretty rare. Each match is two out of three falls, which isn’t just arcade, but its really old school wrestling.
Its not limited to in ring action, you can throw opponents outside, back body drop them, knock them over the ring ropes. It all feels fun. Its also nice being able to walk behind a ring for the first time in a WWF game. You can even jump to the top rope pretty quick. Its not limited and its all enjoyable. Its all risk and reward though. Miss a big move and you’ll be the one in trouble. Opponents can even roll out of the way.
If you’re aggressive and get the first hit, you do double the damage. There’s all sorts of incentive and subtle details to the game. If you need an extra challenge, you can change the difficulty. Changing the difficulty makes it really accessible for all players no matter what age or skill level. Losing a match only means that you’ll get to continue.
For solo players, there is a Road to Wrestlemania, which pits you in a series of singles, two on one and three on one handicap matches. It can get frustrating and tedious to go through those matches. The two player mode only has a huge battle royal mode in which a tag team together tries to defeat 12 wrestlers which come in one after another.
The sound is pretty good for the port, but nothing close to how great the game is for the other platforms. There are audio clips from Jerry Lawler and Vince McMahon that really add to the arcade vibe. Between the matches, you’ll hear the superstar’s theme songs, which enhances the experience. The crowd will cheer and yell out “pin him!”
With everything being said, it feels deeper than other arcade fighters, but the real problem is that on the SNES its limited and over pretty quick. There’s still a lot of fun here, but with six wrestlers, you’ll blow through the game quick. At least with the depth of combat, every match can feel fresh, unique and different. Since every round is so short, nothing overstays its welcome. Its casual yet deep.